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Visit Hearst Castle with Kids

Visit Hearst Castle with Kids

Hearst Castle is one of those iconic California destinations that seems taken from the pages of a fairy tale. It’s hard to believe the amount of wealth and resources it required for William Randolph Hearst to build a magnificent estate of this grandeur in the 1930s. By today’s standards, it would hardly be possible. Our family loved our tours, and to visit Hearst Castle with kids is a glimpse into a bygone era.

Outdoor pool at Hearst Castle

The Neptune Pool at Hearst Castle holds more than 345,000 gallons of water.

Visit Hearst Castle with Kids

To call it a museum is really a disservice – it’s an experience in history. The architecture, interior design, furnishings, art collection and grounds are each eye-popping in their own right. Hearst even imported his own zoo, and kept exotic animals on the acreage surrounding the Castle.  His personal zoo included zebras, giraffes, lions, tigers, monkeys, bears, ostriches, kangaroos and more. Even today, you can see zebra herds still grazing in the grassland near the park entrance.

Some helpful hints for when you visit Hearst Castle with kids:

Buy your tickets in advance

Tours are popular, and the number of guests in each tour is limited to keep the facilities and grounds from being overrun by visitors. It’s best to book at least one month in advance and pre-purchase your tickets.

Hearst Castle main entrance facade

The front facade and main entrance of Hearst Castle was patterned after medieval European cathedrals.

Plan at least two tours

The buildings and grounds are extensive, and one tour does not cover it all properly. We booked two tours back-to-back, and it was just enough for us to feel we got a decent viewing without the kids spinning out of control. Still, this took about three hours.

We enjoyed the Grand Rooms Tour, which covers most of the opulent rooms in Casa Grande (the main house). Our kids marveled at the enormous living room, with a fireplace so large you can walk right into it. Another favorite was the indoor Roman Pool, complete with real gold tiles among the azure blue designs.

Don’t miss the Upstairs Suites Tour, which features the insane Gothic Suite, the Library and many of the bedrooms. Even the stairways and servants quarters are unbelievable to modern eyes.

Visit the beach before or after

The coastline in this area of California is stunning, and right at the base of Hearst Castle’s driveway is a sweet and quiet respite called William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach. The ships that brought many of the workers and supplies to San Simeon during construction were moored here, and now still remains a wooden pier, long sandy beach and the occasional sea lion.

Beach near Hearst Castle

The rustic pier on the beach in front of Hearst Castle.

Just up the coast a few miles is another sensation – the elephant seal sanctuary at Pierdas Blancas. During the time of the year we visited, the creatures were not on site but best viewing can be enjoyed January, April and October. These are those gentle giants with the big floppy noses that like to laze on beaches and bark at the waves.

Food is a challenge

Food choices around this area are scarce, and food and drink are strictly forbidden in the exhibit areas outside the visitor center. The Hearst Castle guest center has a few choices, and the food wasn’t bad – not inexpensive, but the quality and menu choices were decent and family friendly. Another option is to bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the many coastline stopping points, including the beaches described above.

Hearst Castle view of California coast

The view from Hearst Castle is breathtaking, when you know all your eyes can see was once part of the Castle grounds.

Take your time!

Relax and take your time, enjoy the drive and leave plenty of time to stop at some of the vistas along the way. This part of California is beautiful and unspoiled, giving a sense of what it was like before our modern craziness.

We hope you enjoy a visit to Hearst Castle with kids as much as we did. In fact, we are planning to go back so we can take the other tours and see more of this amazing and legendary enclave.

Historic pier at William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach

This rebuilt pier at the nearby was once the dropping off point for supplies that helped build Hearst Castle.


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Istanbul with Kids is a Feast for the Senses

Istanbul with Kids is a Feast for the Senses

Istanbul has been on our bucket list for as long as I can remember. The sights, sounds, smells and tastes of this amazing city have always captivated our imaginations, and the real thing did not disappoint. It’s a perfect family destination, and truly Istanbul with kids is a feast for the senses.

Istanbul with Kids is a Feast for the Senses

Colorful History, Colorful City

At one point in history, the Ottoman Empire controlled much of Europe and Asia all from Istanbul (then called Constantinople). On each street of the city you see examples of culture from hundreds – sometimes thousands – of years of Imperial Dynasty rule. There is so much history on every block the tour guides rolled their eyes when we asked about a building that was “only” 500 years old. Go figure.

Dolmabahce Palace view from the Bosphorous Strait

If you have time, take a boat tour of the Bosphorous Strait in Istanbul to view the city from the waterways.

Not to miss:

Hagia Sophia – Remarkable history as a Christian church, then a mosque. Now a museum with pieces of all those backgrounds still intact. Enormous and breathtaking.

The Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Mosque) – It was amazing to view the inside of this gargantuan mosque, covered with blue tiles hundreds of years old. How solemn and inspiring it was for us to hear the call to prayer from outside its walls. Then we were allowed inside where prayer activities were quiet and reverent. Heads up: women have to cover up with headscarves and skirts out of respect for the culture. (They supply them for free at the entrance).

Tokapi Palace Istanbul

At the Tokapi Palace, we explored the history of the Ottoman Empire.

Tokapi Palace – If you are a history junkie like me, you will love the Ottoman Empire era Tokapi Palace. There are suits of armor, scimitars, jewel-encrusted daggers and battle gear on display. Or just skip into the Imperial Treasury to gaze at the 86-carat Spoonmaker’s Diamond. Impressive, to say the least!

Dolmabahce Palace – On the shores of the Bosphorous, the “new” palace (1860s) became the official modern home and office of the ruling Sultan. It features 285 rooms, the largest ballroom I’ve ever seen, and a whopping 4.5-ton glass chandelier. Opulent doesn’t even begin to describe it. We were even treated to an Ottoman marching band, performing some of the Sultan’s favorites out in front of the palace. The kids loved it!

Ottoman Brigade at Dolmabahce Palace

Out of nowhere, a traditional Ottoman Brigade appeared at Dolmabahce Palace to serenade us on our tour of Istanbul.

Where Europe Meets Asia – Food Extravaganza

Istanbul straddles the Bosphorous River and sits one side in Europe and one side in Asia.  This is literally the place where the historic Orient Express crossed from Europe into the Orient to continue its journey. Istanbul has always been at a crossroads of cultures. Its foods are a tasty example of this mix.

Authentic Turkish Coffee in Istanbul

When enjoying an authentic Turkish Coffee in Turkey, don’t forget to ask for sugar. That stuff is STRONG.

Culinary musts:

Turkish Coffee – Some places served a better cup than others, but this coffee lovers’ treat was omnipresent. When ordering, ask for sweet, more sweet or very sweet. I highly suggest you do not try it without sugar. (We learned that lesson the hard way.)

Fresh Seafood – At the meeting point of the Marmara Sea, the Aegean Sea, the Black Sea and the Bosphorous River, Istanbul’s fisherman can practically reach into the water and pull out a fish with their hands. The seafood is so fresh and delicious! Local restaurants are proud to serve it to you prepared many different ways. The kids were mesmerized in many restaurants, as they brought a basket of fishes to our table for us to point to the one we wanted.

Istanbul colorful streets at night

These colorful streets of downtown Istanbul were perfect for al fresco dining on a summer night.

Turkish Delight – Who knew there were so many different options? Turkish Delight is a sweet combination of dried fruits and nuts in a sliced roll. The traditional option is made from apricots and pistachios, but we found all kinds of variations to sample. And sample we did, every chance we got! The kids became legit connoisseurs.

Kebabs – With everything from traditional spiced lamb or chicken to more unusual combos – eel, anyone? – you’ll find kebabs everywhere in Turkey. Those from fancy restaurants and street vendors are equally tasty. We feasted for very little money with various treats on a stick.

A Shopper’s Delight

In a city known as a mecca for shoppers, there are a few highlights worth the visit even if you don’t spend a single lire.

Grand Bazaar Istanbul colorful Turkish lanterns

You can find all sorts of cool things at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, including these colorful Turkish glass lanterns.

Some of our favorites:

The Grand Bazaar – Yes, it is both grand and bizarre, and you must see it. Like something out of the movies, it’s a labyrinth of tiny shops selling wares from the far corners of the Near East.

Spice Market – There are few places I feel overwhelmed, and this was one of them. It’s easy to get lost among the sea of options, piles of spices and choices of teas. So many colors, smells and tastes to choose from, and definitely worth a stop.

spices at Istanbul Spice Market

The Spice Market in Istanbul is full of sights and aromas that tantalize the senses.

Rugs and Lanterns – Pretty much anywhere you walk, there is a rug merchant and, close by, a lantern store. Both are alluring, and it’s hard to know where to start. Just dive in and start talking. You will learn a lot, and by the third or fourth stop you’ll be negotiating like an expert.

Which brings me to my most important point: nothing in the shops should be purchased at face value. It is inherent in Turkish culture to bargain with the merchants. It’s a fun game, and the trick is to be willing to walk away. They will always come after you with a better offer.

Happy hunting!


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Keeping Your Kids Safe Online

Keeping Your Kids Safe Online

If you have teenagers, chances are they are online whether you want them to be or not. Internet access is a part of school life, and social media is as prevalent for our kids today as party phone lines were in the 1990s. Snapchat, Instagram, and other new platforms popping up all the time are common ways of communication for teens. Rather than forbid or ignore that it’s happening, it’s time to work at keeping your kids safe online. Here are a few ways to help make that happen.

girls taking selfie

In the age of selfies, its increasingly important to keep track of your kids social media platforms.

Keeping Your Kids Safe Online

Model positive online (and in person) behavior.

Cyberbullying is real and terrifying. It’s easy for kids to hide behind a screen and type horrible words they may not say in person. Adults certainly are not immune to being victims or instigators of online bullying. Let your online footprint be one of positivity and professionalism. Let your children see that you choose the high road and do not argue with trolls or post demeaning words towards others, no matter how much you disagree with them.

Open up communication.

If your child is active online, let them know that they should always communicate with you when they see suspicious or bullying behavior whether it’s directed towards them, a friend, or even just something that makes them uncomfortable or doesn’t feel right. Make sure they understand that they will never be in trouble for reporting things like threats, sexual comments, or bullying behavior to you even if they are involved initially. It’s important to build trust, so your child knows that they can come to you when they need help online.

young girl with phone

The younger the kid, the more controls should be put in place to restrict time spent.

Be friends with your child.

But, wait? I am their parent, not their friend, right? Well, yes, but when it comes to online social media platforms, always make sure that you are your child’s “friend” or connection on that social media. It’s not to say that they may not find a way to have a secret profile or have other networks you don’t know about, but if you have open communication and connections online, you’ll be more likely to keep tabs on your child and make sure they are safe online.

Keep up with the trends.

Read about the latest social media platforms and trends before your children become immersed in them. There are anonymous sites where people can post comments without ramifications. One site, Sarahah, which is arabic for honesty or frankness, allows users to post anonymous opinions and thoughts about other users. This is a easy platform for online bullying to occur, and it’s important that parents know that these apps and websites exist. Check out resources like Common Sense Media to stay up-to-date on online trends as well as read app reviews for parents.

The most important step in keeping your kids safe online is building open communication and trust offline. Let your children know that you are there to listen and your home is a safe place. Being present for our kids is the first step in making sure that they are safe in their offline and online lives.

close up use of cell phone

Restricting access to downloads and apps is something we’ve taken quite seriously.

Manage your kids cell phone use with a contract.

State the rules clearly, as well as the ramifications if those rules are not followed. Helping your kids understand how to responsibly use their technology is a huge part of keeping them safe. For more information, here’s my post about how to manage your kids cell phone use with a contract.


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Tandoori Potato Salad Recipe

Tandoori Potato Salad Recipe

Years ago a friend made something like this Tandoori Potato Salad recipe, and I was an immediate fan. This exotic combination of flavors works beautifully together, with just the right sweetness from the red potatoes and spice from the Tandoori paste. Now I’ve made it my own, having figured out my own Tandoori Potato Salad recipe that I’m happy to share.

Tandoori Potato Salad ingredients

The ingredients needed to make my Tandoori Potato Salad recipe are pretty simple.

Tandoori Potato Salad Recipe

Personally, I have always loved potato salad all kinds of ways. I like the traditional kind my mom made, with mayo, mustard, celery and black olives. I also make a tangy dill and sour cream potato salad concoction that always turns out well. This Tandoori Potato Salad Recipe is my favorite, however. The tandoori gives it a little kick that is a perfect accompaniment to a summer BBQ.

boiled red potatoes

Baby red potatoes work best for this Tandoori Potato Salad recipe.

Tandoori Potato Salad Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs baby red potatoes
  • 3-4 large green onions, sliced in rounds
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped coursely
  • 1/4 cup Tandoori paste (you can buy this at most specialty food stores)
  • 1 large lemon, juiced
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • salt and pepper to taste
freshly harvested green onions

Freshly harvested from our backyard vegetable garden, these green onions add great flavor to my Tandoori Potato Salad recipe.

To prepare:

Boil potatoes for about 15 minutes (careful not to overcook because they get too mushy). You will know they are ready when you can just pierce them with a fork. Drain and chill in cold water to stop them from cooking further. When cold, cut into halves or quarters and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, yogurt, tandoori paste, garam masala, mayonnaise, salt and  pepper. Pour over the sliced green onions, chopped cilantro and cut potatoes. Gently fold the tandoori mixture into the potatoes, stirring carefully to avoid smushing the potatoes.

Mixing Tandoori potato salad ingredients

Mix together the tandoori and yogurt sauce with the potato, onion and cilantro.

Spoon salad into a serving bowl and chill for at least two hours. Garnish with a sprig of cilantro and serve.

Hope you enjoy this exotic Tandoori Potato Salad recipe as much as our family!

Tandoori Potato Salad recipe

A favorite at BBQs, we love this Tandoor Potato Salad recipe with a glass of crisp rosé.

 


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Low Tech Things To Do On A Road Trip

Low Tech Things To Do On A Road Trip

Summer road trips are our family’s jam. We love to hit the road for long weekends, visiting fun California places within easy driving distance like Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, Hollywood and more. If you are traveling by car with your family this summer, you’ll want to plan some on-the-road activities that don’t involve staring at a screen. It’s easy to let our kids get lost in their smartphones while on the road, but a family trip is also an opportunity to connect and engage in some low tech things to do on a road trip.

2018 Kia Cadenza

We are ready to hit the road in this snazzy new Kia Cadenza, outfitted perfectly for any road trip. #KiaPartner

 

Here are a few of our favorites:

Low Tech Things To Do On A Road Trip

1. Good old-fashioned reading

Ebooks are easily accessible on the road, but there’s something to be said about the feel of paper and reading a book jacket to find out what you’ll find in the pages. Whether you use a bookmark or dog-ear pages, there’s something special about reading a book. Our daughter Ava loves to read, and she’ll pack some of her trusty  young adult favorites for the road.

desert road sign to nowhere

Whichever way you choose, it’s about the journey not the final destination.

2. Sing-a-long

Although music involves electronic components, there’s no need to bring out the phones or tablets when the Kia Cadenza has a premium stereo system and available Sirius XM Satellite Radio. Your kids might roll their eyes a little when you blast the ‘90s on 9, or you can turn up the latest pop tunes and partake in some carpool karaoke. (Cue teen eye rolling).

3. Scavenger hunt

Before you hit the road, have your family make a list of things you may see on your route. Pick some obvious items for the younger kids (like semi trucks or slug bugs) or more obscure items like a labrador in a truck or a red Ferrari. Try to plan out some monuments or special tourist attractions along your journey. Using our Kia Cadenza’s state-of-the-art navigation system, we were even able to map those locations and make it easy for the driver to find the stops along the way.

pin in a map for road trip planning

Having the kids be part of planning the road trip route helps them be interested in following along from the back seat.

4. Journal

Writing about travels is a great way for your family to reflect and make memories. Encourage your kids to free write about the trip. You may want to pass a notebook around so everyone can share their own special memories as you drive across the country or region. The best part is looking back years later on the fun times you shared. Add pictures when you get home to document your journey with both words and photographs.

journal about travel adventures

When driving to multiple road trip destinations, the time spent in the car is a great opportunity to journal about the trip.

5. Crack the code

Have one family member choose a code word before you begin your trip. Pick something that is not too common but likely to be said somewhere along the journey. Once one person cracks the code with the secret word, they become the new code word creator until another person says their word. This is a fun way to pass the time on a trip while having fun, engaging conversations!

6. The license plate game

Since our girls were very little, our family has loved to play the simple license plate game. Just calling out the name of the US State when you see it first can get pretty competitive. The girls have gotten very good at spotting license plates from faraway places like Maine and Florida, or more obscure ones like Alaska or Hawaii. Me? I never win because I’m usually the driver and keeping my eyes on the road for safety reasons. I just randomly yell out “Alabama!” so they think I’m still in the game. (I think they are on to me).

New Mexico license plate

Some license plates are more colorful than others. Extra points?

It’s not necessary to break out an iPad or fancy phone to keep your family occupied on a long drive. These low tech things to do on a road trip are fun and easy ways to interact or entertain your family on your journey.

Enjoy your vacation with your family with these unplugged activities!


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Fly from Tijuana Airport via CBX Cross Border Express

Fly from Tijuana Airport via CBX Cross Border Express

We’ve found a great option to cross the border and fly from the Tijuana Airport in Mexico, and it’s so easy and fast! It’s always been cheaper to fly to other cities in Mexico from the Tijuana Airport, which is located just feet across the US/Mexico border. It just wasn’t always easy to get there. Now we’ve discovered how easy it is to fly from Tijuana Airport via the CBX Cross Border Express.

CBX Cross Border Express interior

The CBX Cross Border Express building is beautiful, clean and easy to navigate.

Fly from Tijuana Airport via CBX Cross Border Express

Before I go on, please know that flying from Tijuana is completely safe and very US-friendly. If your family is anything like ours, you might have felt a little dubious about bringing your family across the border to fly from Mexico. CBX could not be safer, and you walk inside the building and across the bridge directly into the airport. No lines at the border, no walking across and then having to catch a taxi to the airport. Our experience was flawless.

Buying airline tickets from Tijuana Airport

General Abelardo L. Rodriguez Tijuana International Airport (TIJ) is located just across the border from the US, near the Otay Mesa Border Crossing. It is one of the busiest airports in Mexico, and handles domestic and international flights 24 hours a day. When traveling from TIJ, we’ve had great experiences booking tickets directly on the websites of Aeromexico and Volaris Airlines. There are language options in both English and Spanish. The terminology and instructions are all the same as booking with a US carrier.

Flights are cheaper from Tijuana Airport

We had a fabulous vacation at the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen recently (more on that soon). When comparing flights from Tijuana versus San Diego or Los Angeles, there was a remarkable cost savings. We ended up buying tickets on Aeromexico from Tijuana to our final destination at Cancun Airport. The difference in cost for a family of four was hundreds of dollars, which we were happy to save!

Crossing the US/Mexico Border via CBX

Even more compelling, a new cross-border pedestrian bridge was recently completed that connects directly into the Tijuana Airport. The Cross Border Express buildings on the US side are architecturally gorgeous, spacious and squeaky clean.

CBX Cross Border Express entrance

We walked right up to the CBX entrance, processed our customs paperwork, and sailed through to our gate.

The process at CBX was ridiculously easy (and faster than San Diego Airport to be sure). We followed the simple directions to the CBX location, parked our car in their convenient lot for $15/day, and checked into our Aeromexico flights on the US side of the border. We paid the $14 per person fee and then walked the short distance across the border using the elevated bridge. On the Mexican side we cleared security and customs in about 10 minutes, and walked directly into the gate area of the Tijuana Airport.

walking across the CBX Cross Border Express bridge

As we walked across the bridge from the CBX building, we crossed the border and arrived in the Tijuana Airport.

The whole process took less than 30 minutes from start to finish. We were astonished to find ourselves with too much time in the waiting area for our flight, which NEVER happens in our family. (It’s usually the opposite, because someone is always rushing to pack that last thing).

US/Mexico boundary inside CBX Bridge

You can literally play Hokey Pokey on the boundary line inside the CBX Bridge between the US and Mexico.

Comparing to San Diego International Airport experience

Compare this to another experience when our family flew to Cancun, Mexico out of San Diego airport the year before last. We had to check in at San Diego Airport, show passports and fill out immigration forms, fly out of our way to Dallas, connect to a different flight, and eventually arrive in Cancun. We went through customs in Cancun, which took forever due to the crowds of visitors coming from all over. The amount of time in lines was staggering.

With the CBX experience, we cleared customs and immigration within the bridge connection before entering the Tijuana airport, and sailed through check-in, security and onto our Aeromexico flight deeper into Mexico.

I highly recommend this travel option – we will definitely do it again. Hopefully soon!

dock at Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba

Flying out of Tijuana Airport via CBX Cross Border Express got us to the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba all the faster!


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Summer Cocktail Recipes to Cool and Refresh

Summer Cocktail Recipes to Cool and Refresh

We love to entertain on our back deck, overlooking the yard, koi pond and canyon beyond. Now the summer buzz is in the air, and so are these amazing summer cocktail recipes. Try these drinks to spruce up your summer, indoors or outdoors.

Summer Cocktail Recipes to Cool and Refresh

1. Lemon Drop Martini

This easy three-ingredient lemon martini will have you sipping by the pool in no time!

Lemon Drop Martini

Delicious, easy to make and lemony-licious.

2. Grapefruit Cocktail

The refreshing taste of grapefruit and vodka makes this sweet citrus cocktail a favorite for the warm summer months.

Summer Grapefruit cocktail

Tastes just like summer – great for boozy brunches.

3. Pineapple Coconut Malibu Rum Summer Cocktail Recipe

For a tropical coconut flavored beverage, try this easy, delicious drink:

Pineapple Coconut Rum Summer Cocktail

Malibu coconut rum, pineapple juice, ginger ale, and grenadine syrup give this drink its kick

4. Captain’s Lime Shandy

I never thought beer, lime, and dark rum could combine for such a delicious summer flavor, but this cocktail makes it happen!

Captain’s Lime Shandy

Add a sprig of rosemary for a nice flourish.

5. Orange Julius Cocktail

Take your favorite childhood mall drink and imagine it with liquor in a gluten-free, vegan masterpiece. It’s a grown up Orange Julius.

Orange Julius Cocktail

My mom used to make an Orange Julius but it was nothing like this!

6. Nectarine and Basil Mojitos

This rum-based drink puts together unique flavors together for a fruity marvelous mojito.

Nectarine and Basil Mojitos

Grab some fresh nectarine at your local farmer’s market.

7. Jack Daniels Iced Tea

Lemon slices and Tennessee whiskey will make you want to sing a country song and relax in the sun.

Jack Daniels Iced Tea

Now this kind of iced tea makes me happy on a summer day.

8. Wine Slushies

Perfect for a night in with your spouse or a dinner party with friends, wine slushies bring the sophistication of your favorite vino to summertime.

Wine Slushies cocktail recipe

Wine Slushies are the new big thing, and now you can make one at home.

9 Cry Baby Punch

This sour tequila cocktail is a Tulsa, Oklahoma original.

Cry Baby Punch sour tequila cocktail

This sour tequila cocktail makes you pucker up in a good way.

10. Crown Royal Cocktail

Inspired by The Avengers movie, this drink features cranberry juice, amaretto, Crown Royal, and Captain Morgan for an out of this world chilled beverage.

Crown Royal Cocktail recipe

Festive and colorful, this cocktail is a big hit at summer parties.

11. Pineapple Orange Colada

Do you like pina coladas? Enjoy this fruity drink with added optional strawberries.

Pineapple Orange Colada cocktail recipe

This summer cocktail sneaks up on you.

12. Sorrento Sunrise Cocktail

Lemonade and bourbon make this beachy beauty perfect for sipping.

Sorrento Sunrise Cocktail recipe

Fresh lemon and lime give this cocktail an Italian flavor profile.

13. Classic Gin Rickey Cocktail

Decorate this drink with edible flowers for an artistic delight.

Classic Gin Rickey Cocktail recipe

Some of these old time cocktail recipes are coming back strong.

14. Skinny Margarita

Whip up a batch of sugar-free margaritas in under five minutes.

Skinny Margarita recipe

If you are watching your calories, this cocktail almost begs to be included.

15. Call Me a Cab Lemonade Wine Cocktail

Ice + lemonade + vodka + wine makes this simple sweet drink that will have you buzzing for more.

Lemonade Wine Cocktail recipe

Beautiful, sweet and deceivingly strong.

16. Peach Mango Daiquiri

When you need to beat the summer heat, try this peachy frozen treat:

Peach Mango Daiquiri recipe

With the abundance of fresh summer fruit, peaches will be easy to find.

17. Winey Moscow Mule Cocktail

If you’re a moscow mule fan, bring out your copper mug, add some wine, and enjoy!

 

18. Summer White Sangria

Slices of fruit make this white wine inspired drink a summer favorite.

Summer White Sangria recipe

White Sangria is synonymous with summer, and this one does not disappoint.

19. Morning Mimosas

Set up this delicious mimosa bar to have for brunch or anytime.

Mimosa recipe

A little pick-me-up at the Sunday brunch.

20. Lemon Lime Basil Margarita

Another drink that utilizes basil gives you a reason to plant an herb garden. Yum!

Lemon Lime Basil Margarita recipe

Mmmmmm delish.

These summer cocktail recipes are perfect for a night in, a cocktail party, or lounging outdoors with friends. Enjoy these flavorful drinks all summer long.

If you’re looking for more recipes, check out my concoctions for Sparkling Ice fruity drink recipes, and my recipe for Blueberry Ginger Mojitos is a summer favorite as well.

Enjoy!

 


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Pasta With Zucchini Blossoms Recipe

Pasta With Zucchini Blossoms Recipe

Years ago we traveled to Italy with my parents, Triton’s mother, and my brother Chris on a tour from Venice all the way down to Sicily. While in Rome, we stopped into a little trattoria near the Vatican for lunch. I ordered the most amazing pasta dish made from zucchini blossoms and a touch of saffron. When I asked my mom to recreate it back home,  she made up this Pasta with Zucchini Blossoms recipe. And for you vegetarians in the crowd, this one is meatless!

cooking with zucchini flowers

Fresh from the farmers market, zucchini flowers are slightly sweet and so delicious.

Zucchini blossoms have become more popular recently, popping up in restaurants across the country. We particularly love the Stuffed Fried Squash Blossoms at Cucina Urbana in San Diego, made with lemon ricotta stuffing. But seldom have I seen these blossoms featured in a pasta dish other than in Rome (and my mama’s kitchen).

While shopping at the farmers market recently, I found an organic produce stand selling zucchini blossoms. The woman working the booth said she has not seen them sold elsewhere, and she had convinced her family members to sell the blossoms while in season. I readily bought up two baskets full, eager to make my mom’s version of this pasta favorite.

sliced zucchini rounds with flowers

I used a mandolin to slice the zucchini, but any old knife will do.

This is a very subtle dish. The blossoms give this pasta a fresh garden flavor, and the saffron and thyme add something almost sweet in taste – almost. Combined with the cream sauce and cheese, the end result is surprisingly simple and light.

Pasta with Zucchini Blossoms Recipe

Since zucchini blossoms are seasonal and only available in late Spring and early Summer, be on the lookout for these gems. These are typically the flowers stemming from the plant that do not have a squash attached. Combined with fresh pasta (we get ours from Assenti’s Pasta in San Diego), this dish is out of this world!

Pasta With Zucchini Blossoms

Years ago we traveled to Italy with my parents, Triton’s mother, and my brother Chris on a tour from Venice all the way down to Sicily. While in Rome, we stopped into a little trattoria near the Vatican for lunch. I ordered the most amazing pasta dish made from zucchini blossoms and a touch of saffron. When I asked my mom to recreate it back home, she made up this Pasta with Zucchini Blossoms recipe. And for you vegetarians in the crowd, this one is meatless!

Course Main Course
Keyword Zucchini
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion sliced into thin strips
  • 3 small zucchinis cut into rounds
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1 small lemon grated zest
  • several saffron threads crushed
  • fresh thyme chopped
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 12 - 15 zucchini blossoms trimmed and halved lengthwise (I bought 2 baskets and came home with 16)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 lb fresh pasta we prefer linguini for this recipe
  • 1 1/2 cups grated romano cheese
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley

Instructions

  1. Boil large pot of salted water for pasta, but don’t cook it until the last minute because it will only need 1-2 minutes. Fresh pasta cooks f-a-s-t!

  2. Combine 1/4 of the olive oil with onion, zucchini, salt and pepper, and cook until tender – about 3-4 minutes tops. Stir in the vegetable stock, lemon zest, saffron and thyme and heat until just bubbling. Adjust heat to low and add cream and zucchini blossoms, mixing gently as blossoms wilt.

  3. Cook pasta al dente and drain, immediately returning pasta to the pot and adding butter, 1 cup of cheese and the other 1/4 cup of olive oil. Stir and spoon into bowls. Ladle zucchini blossom mixture over pasta and sprinkle with remaining cheese. Add a pinch of parsley on the top and serve with crusty bread and a nice glass of Italian rosato (rosé).

Just like in Rome! Or at least in my mama’s kitchen.

 

happy senior couple on gondola in Venice

Mom was proud of her Italian heritage, and we were able to visit Italy as a family for a grand tour.